Bristol, RI, United States
Bristol, RI, United States

Roger Williams University, commonly abbreviated as RWU, is a private, coeducational American liberal arts university located on 140 acres in Bristol, Rhode Island, on Mt. Hope Bay. Founded in 1956, it was named for theologian and Rhode Island cofounder Roger Williams. The university has no religious affiliation. Wikipedia.

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The eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica (Gmelin), is both an important component of our estuaries and an important farmed food animal along the east and south coasts of the United States. Its populations have been significantly diminished in the wild due to decades of overfishing beginning in the 1890s. Unfortunately, in 1950, a new disease in eastern oysters caused by the protistan agent, Perkinsus marinus, was identified. The disease, resulting from infection with this protozoan, leads to high mortality of both wild and cultured eastern oysters. Current restoration efforts are hampered by the disease, as is the aquaculture of this economically important food. The parasite infects hemocytes and causes hemolytic anemia and general degeneration of the tissues, leading to death. Ongoing research efforts are attempting to develop oysters resistant to the disease. Transport regulations exist in may states. Infection with P. marinus is listed as a reportable disease by the World Health Organization. © The Author(s) 2013.

Mann M.E.,Pennsylvania State University | Fuentes J.D.,Pennsylvania State University | Rutherford S.,Roger Williams University
Nature Geoscience | Year: 2012

The largest eruption of a tropical volcano during the past millennium occurred in AD 1258-1259. Its estimated radiative forcing was several times larger than the 1991 Pinatubo eruption 1. Radiative forcing of that magnitude is expected to result in a climate cooling of about 2 °C (refs 2-5). This effect, however, is largely absent from tree-ring reconstructions of temperature 6-8, and is muted in reconstructions that employ a mix of tree-rings and other proxy data 9,10. This discrepancy has called into question the climate impact of the eruption 2,5,11. Here we use a tree-growth model driven by simulated temperature variations to show that the discrepancy between expected and reconstructed temperatures is probably an artefact caused by a reduced sensitivity to cooling in trees that grow near the treeline. This effect is compounded by the secondary effects of chronological errors due to missing growth rings and volcanically induced alterations of diffuse light. We support this conclusion with an assessment of synthetic proxy records created using the simulated temperature variations. Our findings suggest that the evidence from tree rings is consistent with a substantial climate impact 2-5 of volcanic eruptions in past centuries that is greater than that estimated by tree-ring-based temperature reconstructions. © 2012 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 200.81K | Year: 2011

Prey selection, intake and, ultimately, the trophic impact of predators are determined by a succession of events that occur at the organismal level -- individual interactions among predators prey, and their environments. Furthermore, because the majority of predator-prey interactions occur in moving fluids, it is critical to observe and quantify predator-prey interactions within a hydrodynamic context. Successful predictions of trophic patterns in natural settings are limited by the ability to: 1) observe directly the effects of turbulence on feeding in pelagic organisms; 2) understand the mechanistic bases of animal-fluid interactions in turbulent environments; and 3) relate quantitative observations from still-water laboratory studies to nature. These limitations are pervasive in studies of trophic exchange within the larger scope of marine ecology.

Recent technological advances, and the combined expertise of the Co-PIs, enables meaningful studies of the influence of turbulence on feeding by the notoriously invasive lobate ctenophore, Mnemiopsis leidyi. Mnemiopsis is a delicate gelatinous predator which uses a laminar feeding current to entrain and capture prey. Using a remarkably effective feeding strategy, zooplankton standing stocks and overall zooplankton biodiversity are reduced, and standing stocks of phytoplankton are increased via a trophic cascade. Like many suspension feeders, however, the feeding current produced by Mnemiopsis may be vulnerable to hydrodynamic disruption by ambient flows. In fact, turbulent events may change the behavior, distribution and prey selection of lobate ctenophores such as Mnemiopsis. This species is an ideal model organism to determine the mechanisms by which turbulence affects trophic exchange patterns of ecologically influential planktonic suspension feeders.

Involving a combination of laboratory and in situ methods to quantify, at the organismal level, this study will determine effects of turbulent flows on the feeding mechanics and predator-prey interactions of Mnemiopsis. Understanding how these turbulent effects translate to the community level will be accomplished via in situ sampling techniques that relate natural turbulence levels to ingestion rates, prey selection and predatory impact of Mnemiopsis in the field. This approach extends beyond current laboratory and modeling studies, with the potential of establishing clear cause-and-effect relationships.

Intellectual Merit: This research will: 1) directly quantify turbulent effects on in situ predator-prey interactions; 2) provide mechanistic understanding of key variables influencing the ecological impact of an important invasive marine species; and 3) develop a novel approach for studying small-scale physical-biological interactions both in the laboratory and in the field.

Knowing how turbulence affects feeding in lobate ctenophores is valuable at the scale of the organism, as well as ecologically. The approach developed here also may be applied to a variety of other turbulence-dominated situations (e.g., mixing at fronts, animal-marine snow interactions) or to other organisms (other plankton, benthic-water column exchanges). In all cases, the outcomes depend upon small-scale physical-biological processes.

Broader Impacts: Undergraduates (5), the graduate student, and the Co-PIs will work as a team in both the field and the laboratory, providing all participants with experience in every aspect of the research. The participation of underrepresented undergraduates will be facilitated through a program at Caltech (Freshmen Summer Institute Research Program) aimed at providing research opportunities to minority students from campuses across the nation. The Caltech Co-PI will continue his role as faculty advisor to this program. An invasive species that can dramatically affect the food chain within semi-enclosed bodies of water, Mnemiopsis leidyi is the focus of broad international interest. Remediation has been the subject of ongoing discussions (and experiments); therefore, results of this research will be communicated to the international scientific community in a timely fashion. In addition, contacts with media (e.g., PBS Shape of Life series, Fantastic Jellies exhibit at the New England Aquarium) involved in scientific education of the general public will be used to convey new findings.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: S-STEM:SCHLR SCI TECH ENG&MATH | Award Amount: 586.50K | Year: 2012

Roger Williams University (RWU) is implementing the STILAS program to attract, support, graduate, and prepare academically talented STEM students with significant financial need for future success in vital STEM fields. At least 15 students are receiving an annual renewable scholarship of up to $10,000 over four years. STILAS builds on: 1) effective recruitment and comprehensive student support services programs targeting underserved students; 2) university priorities and strengths emphasizing research and other experiences engaging students in practical applications of academic learning; and 3) academic and co-curricular activities that build group identity, enhance learning, and connect students to services and post-graduation opportunities that promote more motivated, accomplished and self-directed graduates in STEM fields.

In addition to their coursework, STILAS students participate in on-going STEM-related activities such as field trips, externships, and competitions as well as cohort-specific experiences (including a mentoring program, tutoring, brown-bag discussions and undergraduate research opportunities). Building on the success of established RWU programs, STILAS participants also receive comprehensive, personalized services from the advising, student advocacy and academic support offices. Program recruitment includes outreach to urban science and technology high schools and a free STEM camp experience to bring promising juniors to campus. STILAS students participate in these outreach activities as role models to attract others into the STEM fields. The project increases the academic grounding and future opportunities for students historically underrepresented in the STEM fields and supports graduates who are ready to enter industry and/or further education. STILAS is building, assessing and disseminating a comprehensive model that can broadly inform STEM outreach to underrepresented students in the U.S.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: BIOLOGICAL OCEANOGRAPHY | Award Amount: 376.62K | Year: 2013

Viral-induced mortality of marine microorganisms alters the quantity and quality of pools of dissolved organic matter in the oceans, shuttling organic matter back into the microbial loop and away from the larger marine food web. A major hindrance to understanding the role of viruses in biogeochemical cycling is that we know surprisingly little about which viruses infect which bacteria in the marine environment. In this project, a network-based framework will be used to investigate marine phage-bacteria interactions in complex, multispecies communities. The research focuses on cyanophages, viruses that infect Synechococcus, an ecologically important cyanobacterium in the oceans. There are three parts of the project. The first part will identify genetic signatures of cyanophage-Synechococcus interactions by using laboratory evolution experiments and genomic sequencing. The second part will examine the temporal and spatial diversity of these candidate interaction genes in natural cyanophage populations, by comparing the full genome sequences of hundreds of isolates previously collected over many years. The third part will adapt the new method of viral-tagging to natural host populations to characterize cyanophage-Synechococcus interaction networks in the environment.
Intellectual Merit: The role of viruses in global marine biogeochemical cycles depends on viral-induced mortality rates, which have been estimated to vary widely. The pattern and dynamics of who infects whom are central to our understanding of these rates as well as the role viruses play in marine nutrient cycling. This project will also contribute generally to our knowledge about viral diversity. The vast majority of marine viral sequences are not similar to any known diversity, and it is reasonable to conclude that many of these genes have to do with host recognition and infection. Finally, this project will develop a method of characterizing phage-bacteria interactions in natural, diverse microbial communities, thereby opening avenues for similar studies of viruses in other environments.
Broader Impacts: The project will provide training for 15 undergraduate students (including students from the California Alliance for Minority Participation in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics), 2 graduate students and a postdoc. The project will also build on a science-education internship program that was developed with Crystal Cove State Park in California. The Park is host to more than 1.2 million visitors and 10,000 K-12 students each year. The outcome of this program will be topical science teaching kits that reside in the Marine Research Facility of the Park to be used by middle and high school teachers and students. These kits will connect marine microbiological research to the standards-based curricula of California and National Science Standards, educate the public on this NSF research and assist in the training of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) K-12 teachers. The results will be disseminated at national conferences, including American Educational Researchers Association (AERA) and National Association of Research on Science Teaching (NARST), while the curriculum and video productions will be hosted on the website of the UCI Center for Learning in the Arts Sciences and Sustainability.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: FIELD STATIONS | Award Amount: 158.45K | Year: 2016

Narragansett Bay is one of the world?s best-studied estuaries and research conducted by the numerous institutions, state and federal agencies in the region has led to considerable understanding of the normal functioning of a temperate marine ecosystem. Roger Williams University (RWU) is a primarily undergraduate institution with a water-front campus from which all of Narragansett Bay and its tributaries are easily accessible by boat. In addition to an active field-based research program of their own, RWU collaborates extensively with other institutions, relying on their current fleet of two small vessels. All of Narragansett Bay and its tributaries are easily accessible by boat from the Roger Williams University campus. Their faculty sample and conduct research throughout the region, often extending beyond Narragansett Bay into the ocean for studies involving the RI coastal ponds and the offshore islands (e.g., Cuttyhunk, Block). Over a dozen fixed field-project locations are maintained that include experimental shellfish beds and oyster flats constructed as part of long-term restoration and shore/habitat stabilization efforts. Projects such as these engage the broader public, state agencies, commercial fishermen and aqua-culturists, and students participate with faculty and staff in all of these efforts. Additional information on current research projects is available at

In addition to RWU, a large contingent of research programs work the Narragansett Bay estuary system. These include the University of Rhode Island (URI), Brown University, UMass Dartmouth, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Marine Biological Laboratory, Salve Regina College, Rhode Island College as well as numerous federal and state governmental agencies. RWU often collaborates with these institutions, frequently in the form of providing water access as projects dictate. There is continuing demand for this on-the-water research capacity, which RWU tries to accommodate where possible with its two current vessels (24 Romarine and a 19 open skiff). This award enhances regional research capacity through the acquisition of a third RWU vessel capable of 1) doubling passenger capacity on a given cruise (12 plus crew instead of the current six), 2) providing increased open deck space for gear deployment, 3) enhancing fuel efficiency through the inclusion of an inboard diesel engine, 4) reducing scheduling conflicts for boat time, 5) supporting the development of new undergraduate courses in small boat handling, boat operations and maintenance, and 6) supporting SCUBA research diving. RWU recently initiated a formal dive program in collaboration with the University of Rhode Island, and will offer a scientific research diving course for the first time in the fall of 2016. The vessel of choice for this is a 30 Island Hopper configured with open deck space and a dive platform. Commonly used as local dive boats, these vessels are built by Sea Hawk Boats of Sebring, FL; are coast guard certified and are well regarded for their stability and construction.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: INSTRUMENTAT & INSTRUMENT DEVP | Award Amount: 170.58K | Year: 2015

An award is made to the California Institute of Technology and other collaborating organizations including Providence College, Roger Williams University and the University of Texas at Austin to do research and development of a new diver-operated technology to measure key biological and physical processes that affect the health of the ocean and the organisms therein. The ability to conduct science directly in the ocean environment will be a unique national capability that will transform our understanding of the ocean and can potentially enable prediction of adverse impacts on industries such as fishing and coastal tourism. The project will advance the study of marine biology by extending previous laboratory research into more realistic experiments in the field. Importantly, the technology developed during this project will be made available free-of-charge to other U.S. researchers through a loan program developed and tested under prior NSF support. A small business will collaborate with the researchers toward low-cost manufacturing of the technology. The project will support a diverse workforce through the hiring and training of a full-time graduate student and summer students recruited through a program of targeted research opportunities for underrepresented students. These researchers will conduct laboratory and field work at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA, exposing them to front-line field research.
Knowledge of aquatic animal ecology depends upon accurate measurement of individual organisms for critical processes such as feeding, behavior, and associated fluid motions. Imaging of these interactions has yielded important advances in the understanding of these processes, but has depended primarily upon the controlled conditions of the laboratory. Laboratory conditions allow advanced optical configurations to provide high spatial and temporal resolution moving images within highly controlled conditions. However, these same controlled and defined conditions may also inadvertently create artificial environments that affect the outcome of natural process measurements. The goal of this research is to enable in situ measurements that combine novel daytime particle image velocimetry (PIV); high-resolution, collimated brightfield imaging, and three-dimensional image holography. This new technology will enable (1) direct quantification of complex processes, such as feeding and swimming in turbulent flows under variable lighting conditions, (2) detailed field measurements of animals that are important in the environment but comparatively intractable for controlled laboratory studies, and (3) field confirmation of laboratory data on processes such as predator-prey interactions.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 316.16K | Year: 2010

The evolutionary ecology of virus-host interactions are key to understanding viral-induced mortality rates in marine ecosystems, as the pattern and dynamics of virus-host interactions will ultimately determine the influence of viruses on nutrient cycling. Recent studies suggest that the diversity and composition of marine viruses appears to vary over time and space. The goal of this research is to move beyond simply documenting biogeographic patterns in marine viruses and to begin to ask why the genetic composition of marine viruses varies over time and space. Part of the challenge in doing this is that little is known about how the genetic diversity of a marine virus relates to its phenotype. To address this challenge, the PIs propose to take an isolation approach, using lytic cyanophages that infect marine Synechococcus as a model system. In this way they can compare the genotype and phenotype of each virus isolate.

Intellectual merit
This project will test the overarching hypothesis that the biogeographic patterns of marine cyanophages depend on the particular gene examined, as different parts of the genome, and ultimately, the phenotypes that they encode are under different evolutionary pressures. To do this, the investigators will use a three-pronged approach. First, they will identify host range genes, or genetic markers of cyanophage host range (the particular hosts that a phage can infect). Second, they will conduct a time-series study of cyanophage isolates from the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of North America to compare the temporal and spatial biogeography of three types of cyanophage genes (conserved core genes, host range genes, and host-derived genes). To test that these patterns hold for cyanophage generally, and not just for culturable isolates, the investigators will examine the diversity of the conserved core gene directly from environmental DNA using 454 sequencing technology. Finally, using isolates from the time-series, they will characterize cyanophage phenotypes. For instance, they will determine the survival rates of cyanophage outside of the host under different temperatures. The investigators will also assay host range by testing the ability of each isolate to infect a diverse range of Synechococcus strains. This study will take advantage of the extensive cyanophage collections in Marston and Martinys labs. Marston has been isolating cyanophage from Rhode Island waters for 10 years, and Martiny has been collecting isolates off the southern California coast for 2 years. It will also build on a completed long-term chemostat experiment from a prior NSF collaborative project and build on a currently funded 1-yr time-series in CA (a RAPID grant to Martiny to sample through the El Niño year). In addition, the project will leverage the whole genome sequencing of nine cyanophage genomes, which are already underway as part of the Broad-GBMF Phage, Virus, and Viriome Sequencing Project.

Broader impacts
This project will have broad impacts on a number of levels. First, the research will provide general insights into the evolutionary ecology of marine bacteriophage, which are key players in marine nutrient cycling. In addition, identifying genetic markers of a phages host range would be extremely useful for future studies that focus on the role of phage in marine biogeochemical cycles. Second, the project will provide an outstanding learning experience for students at a variety of levels. In total, this project will support the training of 8 undergraduates per year, 1 PhD students, and 1 postdoctoral researcher. Two undergraduates per year (at least one a minority student) will participate in a science-education internship with the Crystal Cove State Park to develop exhibits, talks, and activities to showcase marine science at the Park; these materials are expected to benefit more than 50,000 visitors per year. Finally, aspects of this research will be developed into inquiry-based laboratory exercises at RWU and into K-12 curriculum materials for use in UCIs new BS in Teaching Science.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: FLUID DYNAMICS | Award Amount: 114.39K | Year: 2015

#1511721 / #1511333 / #1510929 / #1511996
Costello, John H. / Dabiri, John, Colin, Sean / Gemmell, Brad

The goal of the proposed study is to investigate the mechanisms by which different swimming animals propel and maneuver themselves in order to identify common flow characteristics. Results of this work will be applicable to the engineering of vehicles that can bend and twist, mimicking efficient swimmers from nature.

Efficient swimmers in nature appear to exhibit common traits in the bending and twisting of their bodies. While the effects of other morphological characteristics of swimmers have been explored, this is an area that we do not have a good understanding. The basic hypothesis is that the bending kinematics among various species are similar, and these unifying characteristics need to be discovered. Validation of the hypothesis to the broader animal kingdom will be tested using animal informatics. The proposed work focuses on the study of the propulsion of three different model animals (jellyfish, pteropods and lamprey), so that the common swimming traits can be identified, characterized and theoretically analyzed. State-of-the-art experimental techniques (such as 2D and 3D particle image velocimetry and holographing imaging) will be used to quantify the flow, the forces, the torque and the pressure fields generated during bending by these animal models. The final goal is to provide not only quantitative but also predictive evaluation of the fluid dynamic effects of propulsor bending.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: BIOLOGICAL OCEANOGRAPHY | Award Amount: 250.33K | Year: 2015

In many areas around the world jellyfish population abundances are increasing and, at times, result in destructive blooms. Their rapid growth and high feeding rates make them important predators in marine ecosystems and their effects on ecosystems and human activities have increasingly raised concerns. Unfortunately, scientists do not currently understand the factors that determine which types of prey jellyfish eat and how much prey they eat. This presents a knowledge gap of increasing importance as jellyfish undergo inexplicable population fluctuations and invade new environments. In this project the investigators will develop a robust understanding of the factors that determine who and how much jellyfish consume based on their morphology, behavior and size. This fundamental understanding of their feeding process will enable researchers to use simple jellyfish characteristics to predict the ecological impact of different types of jellyfish. This project will include the studying of a greatly understudied group, rhizostome jellyfish, which represents many of the recorded bloom events and geographic expansions. Further, these techniques are sufficiently robust to have broader use in the study of physical-biological interactions for other jellyfish species and other pelagic organisms. The principal investigators participating in this collaboration are from primarily undergraduate institutions. Student participation in the project will involve several undergraduates during each year of the award. Through summer research at the Marine Biology Laboratory, undergraduate students will become exposed to a wide range of research and become immersed in a post-graduate environment that can strongly influence their perception of the scientific profession. The trophic impacts of scyphomedusae are subjects of broad international interest and results of our research will be exchanged with a wide range of colleagues, contributing to international scientific dialogue. In addition, we will use our contacts with media (e.g. PBS Shape of Life series, Fantastic Jellies exhibit at the New England Aquarium) involved in scientific education of the general public to communicate our new findings.

The goal of this project is to quantify the variables that control the post-encounter capture process in order to be able to predict the prey selection patterns and clearance rate potential of different rowing medusae based upon their morphological characteristics and size. To achieve this goal, the PIs will use laboratory and in situ videography and optics techniques to quantify the outcome of individual interactions with prey in the lab and in the field. Step-by-step quantification of the post-encounter capture process will enable them to quantify capture efficiencies of different prey types and determine which stages of the process were most influential in determining the outcome of the encounter. The investigators will use these quantitative observations to relate medusan morphology and nematocyst properties to capture efficiencies. This will allow them to predict prey selection patterns. These predictions will be combined with flow-based encounter models to predict clearance rate potential and prey selection of different medusan species under different prey conditions. Finally, the investigators will validate our predictions using laboratory bottle incubation studies to quantify prey selection and clearance rates of medusae fed different prey assemblages. When achieved, this study will provide marine ecologists with the critical missing links to be able to model and predict the ecological impact of medusae populations in a variety of environments.

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